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The Bamboom: A Fast-Growing Grass Has Investors Seeing Green

September 19, 2011

Photo by Joi. Some rights reserved.

Bamboo is renowned for being the fastest growing plant in the world.  Its status as an environmentally friendly raw material – a more sustainable alternative to wood, pulp, and traditional textiles – is growing almost as quickly.  Bamboo’s ascendancy is even reflected in the IPO market: we can find five initial public offering registrations by companies for whom bamboo is an important if not central product.  All five have been filed since the middle of 2010.  The newest came in Friday, in the form of an F-1 filed by Dragon Bright Mintai Botanical Technology (Cayman) Ltd.  The extravagantly named Hong Kong-based startup seeks to get into the business of bamboo “forestry” to meet the rising world demand for this woody grass.

Dragon Bright does not go out of its way to market itself as an ecologically conscious company.  But on that score it is the exception among its fellow bamboo-focused registrants.  A recent case in point is Sugarmade, Inc. (S-1, 8/4/2011), a distributor of non-wood paper products.  Wearing its eco-passion on its (green) sleeve, the company declares that its use of such “earth friendly sources” as sugar cane and bamboo instead of wood “significantly reduces its manufacturing carbon footprint, energy consumption, and attendant water pollution . . . .”   Similar rhetoric is found in the filings of Biopower Operations Corp. (S-1, 2/9/2011; closed in August), which aims to use bamboo pulp as a biomass energy source; Artison Investments, Ltd. (S-1, 9/10/2010) , developing a composite building material made from bamboo; and Asia Green Agriculture (S-1, 9/20/2010; closed in July), cultivating organic bamboo shoots for the dinner table.

Perhaps even more illuminating is how other already-public companies have reinvented themselves to jump on the bamboo bandwagon.  In some cases, these transformations run a predictable course: for example, a company called Hemptown Clothing Inc. changed its name to Naturally Advanced Technologies Inc. and began supplementing its hemp-based textile offerings with other eco-friendly fibers like bamboo.  But in many other cases, the switch to bamboo seems to come out of left field.  Ivany Nguyen, Inc. (which grows bamboo for paper pulp) and Clenergy Inc. (bamboo for biomass energy generation) both began their corporate lives as mining companies.  And then there is One BIO Corp., whose business now includes the production of bamboo-based organic food products and fertilizers.  Long before it became focused on the growth of this versatile member of the grass family, back when it was still called Contracted Services, Inc., the company was invested in keeping grass short.  It offered commercial lawn mowing services.

Originally posted on Green Mien, 9.16.2011.

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